tv [untitled] May 31, 2012 12:00am-12:30am EDT
sincerity i have no doubt is eleanor roosevelt. now, when you get to the war, which i guess we'll talk about, you'll really see the impact there, but, and the other thing about we all want anti-lynching passed. i grew up in memphis. i'm not that chunky white child on the back of the wall in 1968, when dr. king was giving the mountaintop speech. i was two blocks away when he was assassinated at the lorraine motel. it changed my life. nobody on the planet wants fdr to engage in the anti-lynching legislation more than i do, but let's look at 1934 and let's see what dubois says when fdr calls lynching murder. he's the first president in the history of the united states to call it murder, and w.e.b.
dubois editorializes on the front page of "the crisis." fdr does not support the legislation in '35, '36, '37 or '38 when it comes up, by 1938, eleanor roosevelt spends seven days sitting in the gallery of the united states senate, and she's surrounded by civil rights leaders, all people of color. when they ask her what eleanor is doing, she says, "i am bearing witness," and that to me is a powerful, powerful statement. so you have to look at, granted there was no legislation passed, but there were internal policies changed. there was eleanor's outspokenness. there was her literally putting her life on the line for this, and there were executive orders written, and the justice department created. so i look at his record as a huge step forward to help jump-start where we want to be. was that good in three minutes? [ laughter ]
>> i've never done it this fast. ever. [ applause ] >> so let's move to another small topic. [ laughter ] >> the desegregation of the armed forces, we'll have a panel that's going to talk about president truman, but where did fdr stand, and i think it would be of interest to people that, you know, who have seen the recent movie on the tuskegee airmen. did he know those stories? his main accident was to win the his main intent was to win war but how did he face this issue? >> well, fdr always thought that the primary responsibility was to win the war. there was never any doubt in his mind about doing that. fdr did instruct the war department to, in fact, allow to remove the barriers placed in front of african-americans who wanted to enlist and serve. at this point 9% of the population was african-american. less than 1% were allowed to serve in the united states military.
now, for those of you who may be suspect to propaganda and say, only 1% of the african-americans served in the draft, there were laws that prevented people from enlisting. and so fdr worked with the war department, who was profoundly opposed to this to, in fact, remove barriers. it didn't work that much. it went from 1% to 5% as opposed to 9%. if you go back again, the glass is half-full. when fdr meets with a. philip randolph and walter wright and leaders from the urban league to discuss this, it's the exact same day that the tripartite pact is announced. that means at the same time he's learning that germany, japan and russia all have signed a pack against us. and when randolph and company
come, they come in a meeting eleanor has facilitated. they have a list of seven demands. of those demands, four are met. the full integration of the service is not met, obviously, because that's left for truman to do. the steps that fdr does take, i think, are not just incremental, but are a slap in the face. he has gotten rave reviews for changing his cabinet and bringing in a new secretary of war and a new secretary of the navy. they're republicans, it's supposed to be a bipartisan cabinet. and they are absolutely adamantly opposed to any activity that will advance negros through the ranks. simpson says leadership is not embedded in the negro race. he's secretary of war. the secretary of the navy knox says he will resign if in fact
this happens. what does fdr do? he brings the dean of the law school to be simpson's aide. he appoints a colonel to advise the african-american colonel to advise the selective service. and he gives simpson, the first african-american general to, in fact, ride sort of roughshod on them. the big obstacle in this, however, is george marshall. if you're go to look who's going to block a lot of stuff, fdr doesn't push hard but marshall says not on my watch. we got to win the war. eleanor works to have the 99th squadron, the tuskegee airmen through. she works to have african-american women who want to become nurses do this.
there's a riot in that. eleanor goes to the city the night after the riot to calm things down. stays with the waves and in fact insists the swimming pools they're in to train in be integrated so they can have the same training that their white counterparts are. so it's complicated. >> let's go to another complicated issue, which is japanese interment. probably the case in history where the federal government actually imprisons people based on race and ethnicity. >> i wouldn't say it's the first time. but i would say it's one of the major times. there's no doubt in my mind that fdr considered the emergency of wartime overrode civil liberties protections. there's just no doubt in my mind about this. he looked at a lot of precedents. he knew immediately.
it was a decision that was greatly opposed within the administration. eleanor, for one, strongly opposed it. as did the attorney general of the united states, bittel, as did the military command in hawaii. as did justice douglas, who really violated legal protocol when he met with eleanor to advise her on arguments to present to the president. but fdr -- i think the best book on this is a shoutout to my friend greg robinson whose book order of the president is hands down i think the best study of this. and i think greg is absolutely right, that fdr did not think it through in the sense of thinking there would be long-range questions of patriotism or, you know, suspicion of people or really understand the theft of property that went on.
and so when there is a riot in manson r. camps and the heila river in july of -- i mean in the summer of 1943, he sends eleanor out to meet with them. and i know that they had numerous conversations on this. there's not a shred of paper anywhere in the world on it i give you my word, i've looked for it since the day that i was born, you know? it's not there. i strongly suspect there were countless conversations about this. eleanor wanted to adopt japanese-american families to get them out of camps, she wrote countless letters attesting to people's patriotism. she facilitated their entry into the war. i would stake my mortgage and my soul on the fact that there were conversations about this that we'll never be privy to. >> let's end with you giving us
the back story to the iconic concert that marianne anderson gave at the lincoln memorial. >> well, i love eleanor roosevelt. i love franklin roosevelt. their pictures are in every room of my house. we have to give harold ickes a shoutout. he's the one that really got the lincoln memorial. we need to give both roosevelts credit for is eleanor's understanding of how to use her newspaper column, "my day," to turn this concert in from a local, i.e., regional washington, d.c., slap in the face, to turn it into a national civil rights event. when eleanor resigned from the d.a.r. in 1939 that column goes on the front page of 483 newspapers, and marianne anderson stays on the front page of 483 newspapers for seven weeks. and it's eleanor who goes to the
radio programs to say, you -- you know, basically in polite eleanor language, which i will never in my life be accused of having, if you want me on the radio, you need to carry this. and so it's eleanor's pressure on the radio stations that make it the first live coast-to-coast nationally broadcast radio event in the history of radio. she also works with walter white to schedule the concert at 4:00 in the afternoon, so churches around the country, african-american churches in particular, on easter sunday, can have picnics. and she suggests to walter white that perhaps they can make arrangements for those collections that are kept to be donated to the naacp, and the collections that are are raised that day are the second largest donation in the history of the
naacp, only surpassed by duke ellington's national concert tour when he gave the proceeds of that to the naacp. she also had -- before the -- the debacle that was -- the insult to marianne anderson, eleanor invited her to the white house, she had stayed in the white house. eleanor had talked about her voice in the column and said singing, hearing marianne anderson singing is like sitting in the lap of god. and after the concert, eleanor went july 4, 1939, to richmond, the capital of the confederacy, where she gives marianne anderson the spring arm medal and gives a speech on -- in nonconfrontational terms about the horror that unequal education inflicts on the united states. so in many ways, to me, the back story of marianne anderson is
how this extraordinary woman got the courage to come up and shift from being an artist to a symbol which she knew absolutely she was going to become, she was terrified of doing it. i talked with her before she died, and the courage that she took with the support that she got from eleanor, the friendship that developed about that, the phone calls, the letters that went back and forth, together really is a phenomenal story, and it does my heart good to know that when dr. king stood on the steps of the lincoln memorial, he stood on the exact same spot, and in my lexicon, the two angels that sat on his shoulder were marianne and eleanor. [ applause ] >> so we did it, fdr and civil
rights in 20 minutes much >> we really did it see, did i it. >> thank you very much. we're going to try to start the next panel in literally four or five minutes. we'll bring some chairs up and bring our next group of panelists up. >> good afternoon, everybody. good morning, late early day, whatever. i always think it's nice if you are marking the occasion, and we are, of presidents' day, to say a little bit of something about the presidents for whom this day is named. and that's george washington and abraham lincoln, i found something from george washington i thought was appropriate for our conversation. let me share it with you. george washington, we should not look back unless it is to derive useful lessons from past errors and for the purpose of profiting by dearly bought experience. and i think no better way to discuss this, because we got some useful lessons out of the presidency and the civil rights movement, and certainly we profited dearly by experience
and that's george washington on this presidents' day. so our task is to answer a couple of questions. this discussion is about truman and eisenhower, and the questions on your book will say what prompted president truman to issue the 1948 executive order to desegregate the armed forces, declaring that there should be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services? and similarly, how did president eisenhower decide to call in the united states army to little rock and to federalize the arkansas national guard? now, we're going to answer those questions. the first thing to do is to put this in context, so i'm going to ask our historians, both carol and david, to do that right now. and that is to say, as i look at this time period with truman and eisenhower, it struck me that two wars really frame the civil rights movement and the interaction and the response of the presidents. so, if you would, david, actually, carol, if you would, talk to me about truman and at that time where we were as a
nation and while this world war ii, these african-americans coming back after world war ii started to make a difference in how people thought about civil rights. >> when you think about it, the second world war was an amazing war because it was the war against the nazis. it was a war where both roosevelt and churchill had issued the atlantic charter, and that atlantic charter talked about the four freedoms. african-americans works were dealing with double-digit unemployment, who were dealing with massive jim crow, dealing with the systematic denial of the right to education, who were basically dealing with the systematic denial of the basic and civil and human rights looked at these four freedoms and you start getting mass mobilization and organization within their organization such as the naacp. and you also got veterans, veterans who were fighting in this war, understanding that when you are fighting against
the nazis, you know, this is the era of the double "v" campaign and this doesn't mean peace. this is the double "v" campaign. victory against the nazis overseas and the nazis at home, and this is what is framing and stealing these veterans who are then coming back to the united states determined that the u.s. will live up to what is called its vaunted democracy. will live up to its bill of rights. these veterans were not playing. and when you begin to think about some of the key leaders in the civil rights movement, these are black veterans coming out of the second world war. >> david? >> well, i'd go to president truman right away, i think, because carol understands that international perspective so much better than i ever would. but president truman i think did issue the executive order in 1948 for two basic reasons. one was his own personal conviction. the other was he was in the fight of his life for an election. and he issues it on july 26th, 1948, and calculation of black votes in that is apparent. i don't mean that's the only
motivation. these are complicated people, eisenhower and truman, and they do things for multiple reasons. and i think from -- from an african-american perspective, all of these guys don't quite get it sometimes, but they still were in a political context where they were trying to do things, so truman issued that order in 1948. the story i'll want to get into, when we have time, is that he didn't enforce it very well until we got into korea and then they began to be some desegregation in the armed forces in korea, but four years later, most of the american combat units were still segregated. dwight eisenhower did most of that, and frankly i think it's a disgrace to my profession that the textbooks still say truman did it without mentioning eisenhower when eisenhower came in, most of the units were still segregated, and by october of 1954 there wasn't a single segregated combat unit left. >> so, ernie, i'm just going to ask you from a personal standpoint if you, as a young
man then, remember the impact of uncles, brothers, whomever coming back from the war and a change in a sentiment at that time. >> well, i had an experience, my dad actually fought in world war i, and he went to france, and i always wanted to know why would you go to the army and then come back home, and you couldn't vote, the world was segregated, and that was an atmosphere that i grew up in. and i think that the returning veterans, african-american veterans in the south, really had a lot to do. it's what i think is one of the untold stories about the civil rights movement, is that these men for the most part came back home after freeing germany, and when they came back home, they
met the same issues. as they say s.o.s., same old stuff. >> thank you for the stuff. >> yeah. >> and that that really was sort of an underpinning, that in many of these communities you found activism resulting from that, and in my case, in little rock, the weekly paper, the bates, daisy bates and her husband l.c. ran, he was a veteran of world war ii, and you felt the impact of that. >> okay. >> it was something -- and the other point about it is that it probably -- it spurred activism in a lot of ways. my mother was a schoolteacher, and she was part of the suit that -- for equal pay between black and white teachers.
in fact, a lot of the public school deseg cases arose out of equal teacher pay activity. and the lawyer that argued the case in the '40s in little rock was bhar shall, arthur god marshall. and you get brushed again, that thurgood marshall couldn't stay in the holiday inn or the sheraton or whatever in little rock. he was staying at various houses, and they stayed -- he stayed at our house for a couple of times. so being involved in it -- in this unintended consequences out of the return of black veterans, i think, had a lot to do with spurring the modern civil rights movement. >> callie, permit me to dramatize that briefly. >> mm-hmm. >> when an african-american
veteran came back to visit the nation's capital, even as late as 1953, a black person could not attend a movie, buy a meal, get a hotel room or find a restroom in downtown washington, d.c., the capitol. and again, i'll be dwight eisenhower's advocate, because he desegregated all of that within about a year and a half. most of it was gone not in the entire district but the downtown area. but this was a horrendous thing for veterans to come back and face. >> i think veterans are really important. as we're talking about the presidents, what we also understand with these veterans is when they were coming back from the second world war, they were facing not only this kind of discrimination, but they were facing massive violence. >> mm-hmm. >> the lynchings that occurred in 1946 against black veterans were absolutely horrific, and what also made it absolutely horrific was that the local
governments, the state governments and the federal governments were all looking at each other going -- and you have men in uniform actually being killed and slaughtered much and this is also part of what is pushing president truman, who is a veteran, and he just turned with the quadruple lynching in monroe, georgia, and says something is fundamentally wrong. >> and when you say violence, i think you should be very specific. we're talking about eyes gouged out, castration. >> yes. >> this is not a mere shooting, as if that weren't bad enough. >> no, no, no. this is the blow torch lynching of john jones down in mendon, louisiana. there is the quadruple lynching of two veterans and two women in monroe, georgia, where they were taken out to a clearing and then lined up and just slaughtered. when you read the autopsy reports, they talk about at least 60 bullets in each body. it -- it just kept -- and this was what was driving, part of what was driving the black
community as they are looking, and i go to the frederick douglass quote, that power concedes nothing without a demand. it never has, and it never will, so when we talk about the presidents in this civil rights struggle, it's also important to understand that they are in complete conversation with a completely mobilized black community that refuses to take it any longer. [ applause ] >> so i said at the beginning there's the civil rights -- the thought process and what was happening with the presidents, both truman and eisenhower were informed by two wars. the first was world war ii. the second is the cold war. we don't think about that in terms of civil rights, and carol anderson, you're here to put this straight because actually what was happening externally had a great amount of power on shaping where the presidents had to go in terms of thinking about civil rights, so explain that, if you would. >> and part of that is -- i see the cold war as basically a
double-edged sword. mary dudziak in her book talked about how the cold war forced the united states to have to deal with issues of civil rights because the soviets were having a field day. every time a person was lynched, every time there was a case of southern justice, every time a diplomat from ethiopia or haiti tried to come over and couldn't find a place to stay in new york city, the soviets were like, see, this is what this vaunted democracy looks like, and the u.s. is going, oh, man. so on one hand you get movement on the part of the u.s. government saying we have got to address our unfinished business of democracy. on the other hand, what the cold war did was it limited the range of the options that were available to, in fact, really create true equality in the united states because what was on the table as the naacp looked at it was the issue of human rights, so not just what we understand as our bill of
rights, but also the right to education, the right to housing, the right to health care, and the right to employment. when you're looking at the conditions of black america, what centuries of slavery and jim crow had done, they had systematically denied african-americans their basic human rights, but what the powerful southern democrats did was to link their racism with anti-communism and to say that the right to health care is socialist medicine, it's communistic and the right to education is nothing but communism and so by having human rights framed as communistic and then by putting enormous pressure on the naacp to back off on this human rights frame it, in fact, led to a civil rights movement and not a human rights movement. >> so, now, with those two wars in context, let's talk about a truman coming from where he's coming from and coming off what we know about fdr, how he moved towards even getting to the
point, you mentioned his veterans of being veterans, you know, of thinking about desegregating the army. and you talked about desegregating the army and when you talk about civil rights and truman, we sort of stick him there. there's a broad picture, so if you would with discuss that. >> part of that picture, dave, is absolutely right. truman was in a battle for his electoral life in that 1948 campaign, and clark clifford made it clear the only way to win that election is get that black vote, the black vote that moved up north to the electorally powerful -- electoral college powerful states so that was part of it. the other part of what truman was dealing with was he had the sense of justice, and he saw the injustice. but he's also tied into the missouri resistance. when you talk about the complexity of these presidents as they're trying to balance away all of these things, you
get what he's dealing with. so you get on one part movement where his justice department is filing amicus curiae briefs with the supreme court in the shelly v. kramer case that dealt with restrictive covenants that limited where african-americans could buy a home, so to get the federal government to weigh-in on the side. this was phenomenal. so you you get that kind of movement. you get the president's commission on civil rights which emerged out of these series of lynchings in 1946 where truman is just like enough already. we've got to do something. so you do get movement. you don't get it as far as it needs to go. and i think -- >> that would be legislation, is that what you mean? >> you would get it in terms of -- you weren't going to get anything via legislation because the southern democrats controlled about 63 of the key seats in congress. they weren't having it, so anything you were going to try to do legislatively, you weren't
going to be able to get it through mississippi, louisiana, south carolina or georgia, alabama. they had that thing on lockdown, so it required the president to move around via executive orders. so you do get the executive order for desegregating the military as well as the federal bureaucracy. but desegregating the military was long and slow. and it was the battlefields of korea, that made the army go, okay, we got to do something. so i become fascinated though by a president who is the commander in chief where in fact his generals are defying a direct order to in fact desegregate. i mean, that -- that gives you some sense of the power, how the structural racism that is embedded in these institutions and then what some of the presidents and particularly these black organizations are fighting against. >> why is it that we don't know about the other stuff that truman was doing?
it may be limited but really all i knew about, and maybe i'm ignorant, is just he tried to desegregate the military, that's it. i never heard his name connected with anything else having to do with civil rights. >> and i think it's because when we think of civil rights we often run to the mid-1950s and think of rosa parks and martin luther king, so when you get a prelude, you get a quick snapshot, deseg the military because we know the military is important and then folks immediately run to the mid-1950s, and i think that that is part of the issue. but you do get a lot of groundwork happening here, and we can't understand what we see in the '50s unless we understand the groundwork of what was happening in the '30s and '40s. >> all right. let's move to the '50s. ernie, did you want to say something? >> yes, i was just going to say that that backdrop was, you know, the reason that goinba